A Purple Heart in a box of donated housewares feels out of place. That's why when a Goodwill store in Southern Arizona found a WWII sailor's Purple Heart in its donations, it went out of its way to reconnect the medal of honor with the recipient's family.

By Jenny Krane
July 11, 2019

A lot of people are decluttering and donating items lately, especially with the rise of Swedish death cleaning and the popularity of the KonMari method from the Netflix hit show, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.  And while it helps reduce stress and makes moving a whole lot easier, important things can get lost in the cleaning process and end up in thrift shops like the Salvation Army or Goodwill. When a purple heart was recently found in a box of donated housewares at a Goodwill in Tucson, Arizona, Goodwill Industries of South Arizona was determined to return the medal of honor to its rightful owner.

Photo courtesy of Getty.

The Purple Heart is one of the oldest and most respected military awards given to U.S. military members who are wounded or killed in combat. The medal of honor was created by George Washington in 1782 and was named the Purple Heart on the bicentennial of Washington’s birthday in 1932.

The Purple Heart found at a Tucson Goodwill was engraved with the honored service member’s name, military branch, and class. It was found that the medal belonged to Nick D’Amelio Jr., who, according to military records, was a U.S. Navy seaman second class who was reported missing during World War II. The ship that D'Amelio was on, the USS Little, was gunned down in the Solomon Islands on September 5, 1942.

Related: Florida Mailman, 60, Spends His Days Off Cleaning Veterans' Headstones at Rundown Cemeteries

After a Goodwill associate found the medal, Goodwill tried to find the family of D’Amelio, so that the medal could be rightfully returned. The thrift store teamed up with Purple Hearts Reunited, a nonprofit that returns lost or stolen medals to veterans or veterans’ families. After having no luck in the search for D’Amelio’s family, photos of the medal were posted on social media in hopes of new leads.

On July 10, just two days after the photos were posted online, the Goodwill Industries of Southern Arizona posted an update saying that they were able to contact D’Amelio’s family and were working with them to return the medal. Today, Goodwill announced in a social media update that the Purple Heart will be returned to the family of D'Amelio on July 12. Goodwill also extended a thank you to those across the nation who supported the efforts to locate D'Amelio's family.

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